This project (2020-1-SE01-KA203-077872) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Complexity and Sustainability in Social-Ecological Systems

Thematic Area
Social Sciences and Humanities
Factual description
The course focuses on the theme of creating and maintaining a sustainable society in a world of complex socio-ecological systems and interactions. The goal is to help students become attuned to the ways in which a variety of contrasting environmental discourses structure the grounding assumptions and priorities of different activist, academic and policy actors.

The reach its educational objective, the course will concentrate on answering three main questions:
- Can the main objectives and key consideration of sustainability efforts in a complex and uncertain world be at least roughly specified as basic guides for decisions and decision-making processes for very different issues and contexts?
- Can we overcome, or at least accommodate, the various big apparent tensions – between global and local, immediate and long-term, socio-economic and ecological, etc.?
- If yes, how?

The course starts from the consideration that:
1 – Sustainability involves a combination of ecological and human considerations;
2 – These considerations are inevitably linked over time and space;
3 – The relationships involved are interactions of and in complex socio-ecological systems that are diverse;
4 – In all sustainability issues and decisions, the specifics of the case and context matter;
5 – What we choose to do in pursuit of sustainability is ultimately a matter of ethics;
6 – In consequence of the wicked dilemmas and trade-offs involved, it may not be possible to make our liberal-cosmopolitan-global civilization sustainable; it may not event be possible to make any human society sustainable.
Relevance in complex systems
The syllabus is very much related to the topic of complex systems, as it directly investigates the wicked social, ethical, economic, ecological and political dilemmas arising from complex socio-ecological systems
Strong points
- The course has a very wide multidisciplinary perspective;
- Differently from many other courses, this one involves also an ethical dimension of analysis;
- The course analysis complex systems study in its historical dimension;
- It helps the development of complexity thinking.
Transferability potential
This course provides an interesting method that could be adopted in departments of humanities and social studies.